While the Xbox has a smaller foothold in the Japanese market than it does in the US, there are still plenty of players who are loyal to Microsoft’s family of consoles over in the land of the rising sun.
Because of this, there are also a gaggle of Xbox games that are either distinctly Japanese in theme or exclusively developed by teams in Japan for Xbox owners. Here is a look at just a few of the titles you might consider snapping up if you are planning a trip to Japan.
The city of Tokyo is abuzz with the clicks and clatters of hundreds of pachinko parlors, and to prepare for your personal forays into this quirky pastime it’s a good idea to check out a virtual version on Xbox first, courtesy of the eminently affordable Happy Pachinko.
Available not only on Xbox One but also on PC and smartphones, Happy Pachinko is an excellent casual title that offers ample replayability. It is worth finding out what is pachinko exactly before you play, as this will also act as preparation for your IRL Japanese jaunt.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Few games evoke the feeling of feudal Japan more romantically and attractively than Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, from iconic developer FromSoftware. It follows in the footsteps of the firm’s Dark Souls franchise by offering a punishing level of difficulty, but eschews the multifaceted RPG elements of that series in favor of a more character-focused narrative and a leaner approach to combat.
The result is an unforgettable, award-winning game that tells a fantastical tale of a renegade shinobi who has a path of vengeance to follow and some pretty special tools, including an adaptive prosthetic arm, to help him achieve his goals.
Best enjoyed on Xbox One X, Sekiro is definitely a daunting challenge for newcomers to FromSoftware games, but for veterans of the SoulsBorne genre, it should tick all the boxes.
Monster Hunter: World
Japanese gamers like RPGs that offer huge scope and impressive scale, with Monster Hunter: World being one of the best examples of this genre around. It is also one of the more accessible games of its kind, meaning that even if you have never experienced anything like it before, you will not be overwhelmed by the new mechanics and narrative quirks on offer.
As the name suggests, players will be thrust into vast environments filled with creatures to hunt, and you have the option of either killing the beasts you face or capturing them for further research. Rather than applying strengths and weaknesses based on character attributes, your abilities are largely determined by your arsenal of weapons and armor, helping it to stand out from other RPGs.
If Monster Hunter: World represents the accessible, approachable face of the Japanese Xbox gaming scene, then Neir: Automata is at the other end of the spectrum. This should really be seen as a selling point, as it is a boundary-pushing, genre-smashing experience that plays with many tropes of the action-RPG genre and turns some entirely on their heads altogether.
While combat will be familiar to anyone who has played a third person slasher-shooter in the past decade and a half, it is the oddity of the storyline and the need for repeat playthroughs which sets this game apart. If you can get past some of the more jarring elements, it will be a window into the Japanese psyche and explain many of the pop culture differences before your trip.
Beat-em-ups are another cornerstone of gaming in Japan and Tekken 7 is the latest entry in one of the best-loved franchises in this genre to emerge from this nation.
The delightfully convoluted plot is a staple of the series, as is the tightly controlled action and the real sense of weight and impact that the characters are imbued with. As well as offering single player elements, there are also local multiplayer and online competitive modes to check out, although it’s better to perfect your skills solo before you try battling veteran human Tekken players.
Resident Evil 2
The remake of the 1998 classic was a critical and commercial success when it arrived in 2019, and it is all the more interesting from a Western perspective because it demonstrates what Japanese developers think of life in the US.
The zombie apocalypse that descends on Raccoon City is as abominable as ever, and the mixture of action and survival elements has never been better. The less polished Resident Evil 3 remake is also worth a look, although make sure you leave time to prepare for your Japanese vacation in other ways aside from just playing games!